This week we got: celeriac, a very leafy fennel, a red onion, a green bell pepper, a surprisingly big pile of parsnips, some white Kennebec potatoes, a long wand of rosemary, York apples, and curly kale. This is roughly my half, although I made off with the whole celeriac and fennel in case of weekend cookery.
So many roots. I personally find it a little more challenging to construct dinners out of plentiful roots than, say, the profusion of leaves we had last week. Parsnips are a spicy treat, and I never get tired of roasted potato wedges, but I just don’t feel that dinner is complete unless it includes a significant amount of matter from other plant parts. So it’s just as well that I had leftovers from the previous week and several dinners out to keep me fed until the weekend.
I spent a lazy Saturday morning in, cooking up some things I already had. I had a few old apples that had started to go mealy, but not enough to make applesauce, so I chopped them up for breakfast muffins. At the suggestion of a gastronome friend, I’ve been saving apple cores and peels in a freezer bag, like my other stock scraps, to one day make a good brine or braising stock. (I do recognize that there’s something a little scary about my freezer, full of plant garbage and animal bones. But remember, I haven’t paid money for broth or stock in about four years, and mine are always low in salt and and preservatives!) I also chopped up an old carrot, a potato, and a couple of the smaller parsnips for a lazy roast, to eat with sauteed kale and an omelet for lunch.
On Monday, after a long day at work, I packed up most of the remaining roots and took them to my neighbor’s house for a cookathon. We had a long list of short projects: turn the fennel leaves into pesto; infuse oil with rosemary; mash potatoes and parsnips and celeriac (and parsley from another week). We saved some of the celeriac and diced it up with carrots and onions, storing them in freezer bags to be used as soup starter some cold winter’s night in the future. On a whim, I insisted that we roast the fennel bulb with sweet vinegar. My neighbor wished to use up some greens and smoked trout, so we threw those in a skillet.
Everything seemed to finish all at once, and made a surprisingly complete meal. The greens were smoky and flavorful; the mash was creamy with sharp bright parsnip and celeriac flavors. Fennel has well and truly won me over, but in my defense, the curly carmelized petals that came out of the oven didn’t retain much of that licoricey tang that makes fennel so divisive.
Tuesday was another long day at work, but I am so close to finished with my big seasonal project that I was in the mood for a comforting treat. When I was a kid, my mom would use up mashed potatoes by frying them into fritters with a little flour and egg, so when I got home I called my mom and she talked me through it. My fritters didn’t hold together well, but they were creamy and cheesy with crispy edges–just as I remembered. But I am an adult now, so I ate them with tomato chutney on the side.
I never feel much pressure to finish a whole week’s worth of vegetables in seven days–I only worry about what will go bad in that time–but now that the season is nearing its end, I’ve begun to think about holding back some of the vegetables for later. For example, I’m sure we’ll get parsnips again in a week or two, and goodness knows that they’re not hard to find in stores, but the ones that come from the farm are so good that I wondered whether I should save them for Thanksgiving. (Answer: sure, they’ll keep, but no, just sieze the day. Food is not forever!) Meanwhile, my gentleman friend and I got takeout twice this week–an unusual splurge!–and I’ve been enjoying more dinners out before plays, movies, and birthdays. A very different kind of household management than just five or six weeks ago, when we were still budgeting time and wallets around a weekly pile of ripe-to-bursting produce. It’s worth noticing: folks who are dubious about staying on top of a CSA might be more comfortable with a fall-only share, which brings hardier vegetables–often cured for storage–that will wait patiently for you to cook them.